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A $2 billion bet on the future of Truckee

John Seelmeyer

East West Partners is making a good-sized bet in Truckee try $2 billion worth on a couple of big demographic waves.

The Colorado-based company bets that Baby Boomers will begin buying more second homes as they enter their retirement years.

The company bets, too, that the much-documented nesting urge after the Sept.

11 attacks will play out in the desire of Baby Boomers to use their second homes as family gathering places in years to come.

Travelers along Interstate 80 east of Truckee can see the first signs of the company’s ambitious plans as some dirt-moving began last autumn for the company’s Old Greenwood project on the south side of the freeway.

That project will include 99 singlefamily homes and 150 time-share units surrounding a golf course that will be open to the public.

Marketing of the 600-acre Old Greenwood is expected to begin this summer, said Blake Riva, who is responsible for finance and administration of East West Partners’ work in the Tahoe area.

The primary market is expected to be second-home buyers from the Bay Area.

Across I-80, meanwhile, East West Partners is pursuing plans for Gray’s Crossing, a 757-acre development that would include 100 homes to be sold at market prices, 100 homes built as affordable units and 100 attached housing units.

A 35,000-square-foot neighborhood shopping center also is planned in the development that would surround another golf course.

Across the Martis Valley on the slopes of the Northstar Ski Resort, East West hopes to win county approval to begin marketing homes at Village at Northstar late this year.

Up the hill, a ski-in, skiout residential project called The Highlands will be headed for regulatory approval in 2004.

By the time the projects are wrapped in 15 to 20 years, Riva estimates that the sales volume will total more than $2 billion.

In its marketing push, East-West isn’t selling just houses; it’s selling a recreational lifestyle that it’s creating.

Along with the two new golf courses it’s building and the Northstar ski area that surrounds two of its developments, East West Partners has a long-term lease on the Coyote Moon golf course at Truckee and recently opened the Wild Goose restaurant on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

The real estate properties together are marketed as “Tahoe Mountain Resorts,” and buyers will have the option of acquiring membership in a “Tahoe Mountain Club” that gives them access to all the recreational facilities.

Why Truckee? For starters, Riva said, some 12 million people live within a three-and-ahalf hour drive.

The fact that little resort property has been developed at Truckee is another attraction.

And just as important, none of the company’s development, with the exception of the restaurant, falls within the turf of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The East West Partners properties are about as close to Lake Tahoe as possible without falling under TRPA’s tight controls.

While not as strict as TRPA officials, Truckee city fathers want to make sure the Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing developments don’t irretrievably damage the town’s character.

“There’s going to be some heartburn with it,” acknowledged Mayor Ted Owens, whose city government will hear the Gray’s Crossings plans in coming months.

“It (the development) will change the feeling of living in the woods.”

He gave East West Partners credit, however, for spending time in meetings with the community before launching the formal application process.

The informal meetings, Owens said, allowed the company to shape its plans at early and inexpensive stages in the process.

Working with resort communities is nothing new for East West Partners, a group of related company based in Avon, Colo.

The companies have developed resorts and residential real estates in ranging from South Carolina to downtown Denver to the mountains of Colorado.

The company, which has posted annual growth rates of 30 percent during the past five years, counts among its principal investors Crescent Real Estate Equities Co.

In the past six years, Crescent has put $100 million in East West Partners projects.

East West Partners also has worked with Intrawest, a Canadian resorts developer which shortly will open a regional office in Reno.

The two companies joined forces to develop Three Peaks at Breckinridge, Colo.